A man who has now tested positive for the coronavirus worked a shift in a hospital emergency department in the west of Ireland after returning from northern Italy, it has been revealed.

The man, a healthcare professional, is one of a family of four in Clare who have been confirmed to have the virus and are now being treated in an isolation unit.

However, prior to the diagnosis, the man completed a shift working in a hospital A&E. The HSE is now trying to trace patients who may have been in contact with him in the hospital.

Last week, on Gript, John McGuirk predicted this kind of scenario, writing:

But the old and the sick, of course, won’t be attending a Rugby match on a cold march day in Ballsbridge. They’ll be in the hospitals where the first patients are taken. When this virus claims Irish lives, it will almost certainly be because someone who doesn’t know they have it spends six or sixteen hours in accident and emergency coughing all over a grandmother who’s hurt her wrist.

The revelation has put the government’s handling of the COVID-19 under scrutiny, with commentators observing the absence of a protocol which would have prevented a healthcare professional from being in contact with patients after they had returned from a high-risk region.

“This government has already lost control of this Virus. Still allowing flights in from Northern Italy!. H.S.E hasn’t a clue on how to deal with this,” was one response on Twitter.

 

Health Minister Simon Harris has been criticised for refusing to ban flights from Northern Italy, although all nine cases in the thirty-two counties on the Island have originated in the region.

The government has cancelled a rugby match but is still proceeding with a plan to bring 1000 people here for an alcohol policy conference.

As reported earlier, a national school in Co Clare has been closed for two weeks as 4 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in the country last night.

All four cases are a family in North-West Clare who had travelled to Northern Italy before returning home.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan confirmed the family are being treated in an isolation unit but would not confirm the location.

A closure notice for the school read: “As a precaution school is closed from tomorrow (Thursday) for fourteen days re-opening 18th March. Public health doctors will contact you individually from tomorrow on”.

The news brings the total of confirmed cases of COVID-19  in the Republic to six, with another three cases in the north.

The HSE has advised anyone who has “returned from a country or region with spread of COVID-19” to  visit their website for advice.